Paper or plastic? Should I live in a cave?

21 Apr 2010

What should we do to be environmental protective?  Given that Earth day is this week, there are sure to be a plethora of lists to “do this” or “do this and not that.”   Like the articles about saving money (“stop buying the triple large coffee every day at XYZ”) some of them are quite predictable.   Use programmable thermostats; don’t run the water while brushing your teeth (or before taking a shower); take showers not baths; don’t water your lawn mid-day; put that brick in the toilet tank; use a low flow showerhead;  switch to CFL bulbs; use cloth grocery bags; keep your tires inflated, etc. etc.   So, what do you do after you’ve done all those things?  When the “low hanging fruit” is gone.

Don’t get me wrong – there are MANY people out there who have not picked the low hanging fruit- and they should.  But what’s next?  Experts seem to agree that most savings and environmental benefit are to be found in four areas: transportation, diet, housing construction, and energy-using products.  We’re all aware of how much gasoline costs and most cars now have mileage calculators – some even have “trees” that “grow” as you optimize your mileage.  $4 a gallon gas begat “cash for clunkers” which took some gas guzzlers off the road and people do seem to be looking for the energy efficient light bulbs and appliances.

I’m not advocating living like a luddite – but perhaps a little more reflection on what we need vs what we want might make a big difference.  When our grandparents were young, they “made do” and repaired and sewed, turned lights off and gardened, not because it was “green” but because that was how they could afford to live and that’s how every generation until then had lived.

It’s only been in the last 60 years that disposability has been the norm.  We should acknowledge that the “party” might just be changing and that we need to live a bit more like the greatest generation did before World War II and a little less like they did after.

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